Why the Responsible Business Workbook can really help your business
The following article has been provided by Jo Shaer, Managing Director of Lollipop Local, a digital agency based in Southend-on-Sea. Jo was eager to share how the Responsible Business Workbook had benefited her company.
Lollipop Local is a member of ORB (Organisation for Responsible Businesses) and Jo was also interested in applying for a Southend Business and Community Charter Award a robust award for businesses that support the local community. As part of the application process for this award, businesses are required to purchase the Responsible Business Workbook and go through a self-assessment process to ensure they are operating ethically, efficiently, and responsibly – which also means meeting legal requirements.
The workbook is also the basis for the Responsible Business Standard, an auditable certification designed specifically for small businesses, but it can be purchased direct from the website as a stand-alone item.
This is what Jo says about the Responsible Business Workbook:
Last month my solicitor congratulated me on how well set up my business is. He commented that not many MDs have paid attention to the details that can be so crucial when the brown stuff hits the fan.
I smiled smugly but I knew that a lot of the credit should be going to ORB and the Southend Charter Awards.
I have to admit that I was sceptical when Jill handed me the large folder comprising the Responsible Business Workbook and asked me to try to get it done in six months.
My lovely business coach, Vicky Kelly, advised me to do it 20 minutes at a time and breaking into bite-sized chunks really made a difference but, to be honest, after completing the first section, I had already started to see the value.
Getting the basics right
Part 1 of the Self Assessment involves thinking about the workplace and meeting the legal requirements to run a business. It reminds you about having Employers’ Liability Insurance and Risk Assessments and all the other things you need to do to be a good employer. Not just from a legal perspective but from a staff morale point of view. We are particularly proud to have been one of the first businesses to sign up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal in Southend with our weekly yoga class for staff – on the Company’s time.
Being eco-friendly is the focus of Part 2- in both your use of energy and resources and applying that to your supply chain. We are a digital agency and the clue is in the name – being digital we don’t have a huge footprint in terms of materials, although we recognise that we should look at being as energy efficient as possible. We live in a beautiful part of the world with lots of wildlife and we want it to stay that way.
Part 3 covers your commitment to your local community – with your suppliers and your staff. We have always focused on employing local young people. We are very proud that our first Apprentice has become a highly valued full time member of staff and our graduate has a career path mapped out towards becoming our Operations Director. We have also run free training courses at The Hive to guide local business owners safely around the internet. However, we now recognise that we could still do more for the community that is not necessarily work-based – and we will be looking to address this later in the year.
Being good people to do business with is Part 4 – having all the right insurances for the performance of our business and the protection of our customers and suppliers.
An area that we had not considered before was complaints handling and after sales service – the workbook helped us to identify ways that we could improve this aspect of our business.
It also reminded us that we should be shouting more about our 7 day payment terms. We always pay our staff and suppliers on time and we now expect our customers to show us the same courtesy.
Ethics and Transparency
Part 5 gets down and dirty with ethics and values and this includes making sure that you display all your Company details on your website. One of our bugbears is when clients come to us with websites that have been built by other developers who don’t understand this requirement. If you are a limited company, you must display your registration number and registered office, amongst other things. Make it easy for customers and suppliers to see that you are a reliable and trustworthy business to work with.
The final part of the Workbook dealt with everybody’s favourite – Business Processes. It was another area that really made us think about long and hard about the way we run our business and the potential pitfalls. What happens when things start to go horribly wrong at the highest level – is there a disaster recovery and business continuity plan?
As an online business, the threat of cyber attack is becoming more and more prevalent. Forewarned is forearmed so it’s really important to think of worst case scenarios – although also quite difficult to try to second guess a hacker when you don’t really understand their motives.
And that’s where having the right insurance against business losses – both yours and your customers’ is crucial. What I discovered was that having an insurance broker who specialises in my industry really made a difference to ensuring that I got the right cover. But, without the workbook reminding me of the questions to ask, it would have been a lot more difficult.
It’s taken me the best part of 6 months to get everything in order but – even though we’re not quite ready to apply for a Bronze award yet – I am really glad that I made the effort.
And, whilst we all hated getting to grips with our Processes, it was that part that made us more efficient and really helped to improve our ability to grow as the months went on.
I feel that making my way through the Workbook has helped me to become more aware of my responsibilities as a business owner – to my staff, my customers and my suppliers.
And, even more importantly, it has helped me to understand that I don’t want to work with other businesses who don’t have the same values because dealing with customers or suppliers who are uninsured or unprepared makes life so much harder and more stressful.